Long Island lawmakers are preparing for the likelihood that New York State legislators will pass a proposal to legalize recreational marijuana sometime in the near future.

Officials launched the Nassau County Task Force on Marijuana Legalization & Regulation to understand key local needs in advance of potential legalization. The North Hempstead Town Board passed a law prohibiting the retail sale of recreational marijuana in the town. And Republican state legislators from Long Island are urging Democrats spend future legal marijuana tax revenue on cutting taxes instead of increasing government spending.

“Legalization of recreational marijuana will mean a big change to our local laws, procedures, and regulations,” said Nassau County Executive Laura Curran. “I have directed the formation of this task force to pre-emptively ensure that our law enforcement, health officials, and residents are equipped with the tools and resources they need to be prepared.”

If the proposal passes the state legislature, New York would become the 10th state nationwide, including Washington, D.C., to legalize smoking recreational marijuana for adults over the age of 21. Gov. Andrew Cuomo is pushing the legislature to pass the measure this legislative session, which ends in June.

The task force will bring together leaders from across the county to understand local needs, including new regulatory and licensing procedures, tax and business development implications, public health protocols, and training requirements for police officers. 

“Officers will require additional training and new equipment will need to be purchased to identify drivers driving under the influence of marijuana to keep our roadways safe,” Nassau County Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder said.

Curran said Nassau should seamlessly incorporate harm-reduction strategies, while implementing a regulated marijuana program that will properly absorb the regulatory mechanisms required to ensure public safety, protect public health, and provide consumer protection.

Meanwhile, the North Hempstead town board unanimously approved a local law that will prohibit the retail sale of recreational marijuana in the town.

“While we certainly understand and support the need for medical marijuana dispensaries and their place in alleviating pain and discomfort in patients, we feel that this law prohibiting the sale of recreational marijuana addresses the concerns brought to us by many residents,” said North Hempstead Supervisor Judi Bosworth.

The law amends the town’s zoning code and states that “no building, structure or premises within any use district in the Town of North Hempstead may be used for the sale, distribution or offer for consumption of marijuana or marijuana products in a retail setting or environment for non-medical use.”

As far as potential marijuana tax revenue is concerned, state Senate Republicans who are in the minority for the first time in a decade said that they will propose that all tax revenues from marijuana sales go to tax relief, not to fuel more spending.

In the state’s lower chamber, Assemb. Michael Montesano (R-Glen Head) also cautioned against banking on weed tax money in this year’s budget.

“[Cuomo] is counting on getting $300 million in sales taxes from marijuana, which hasn’t even been legalized yet and sales will be competitive considering the black market,” Montesano said. 

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Timothy Bolger is the Editor in Chief of the Long Island Press who’s been working to uncover unreported stories since shortly after it launched in 2003. When he’s not editing, getting hassled by The Man or fielding cold calls to the newsroom, he covers crime, general interest and political news in addition to reporting longer, sometimes investigative features. He won’t be happy until everyone is as pissed off as he is about how screwed up Lawn Guyland is.